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Central-Office Folks Seeing School Through a Student’s Eyes
From Marshall Memo #490
In this article in School Administrator, Brian Edwards describes a shadowing program in Montgomery County’s high schools. The idea was for 26 central-office leaders and the presidents of the teachers’ and administrators’ unions in this large Maryland district to spend an entire school day with one student, observing classes, lunch, physical education, and extra-curriculars.
There was some resistance to the idea at first. Central staff wondered, “How can I find the time? What will I really get out of it? Will schools just put on a show so we won’t see anything real?” Principals worried, “Will this count as part of my evaluation? What might my teachers or students say to these senior leaders about me or our school?” Edwards says these fears were laid to rest by ensuring that no direct supervisors visited schools for which they were responsible and nothing in the visits would be part of principals’ evaluations. Students were chosen to be representative of their school’s demographics, achievement range (working below, on, or above grade level), and extra-curricular activities.
What struck the administrators and union officials from their shadowing days? Edwards says these insights emerged:
- Some visitors were struck by how little high school had changed since they were in school.
- Some marveled at students’ ability to shift gears from one teacher’s expectations to the next as they moved through the day.
- Some students advocated for their own education, questioning adults’ decisions.
- Central administrators saw a wide range of teaching proficiency from “inspiring” to “less than ideal,” says Edwards, and renewed their commitment to helping principals coach teachers “to ensure every student has engaging and meaningful class experiences daily.”
- Some administrators have maintained contact with their student hosts and used their experiences to guide their decision-making.
- High-school principals ended up having positive feelings about the shadowing days, and their colleagues in elementary and middle schools asked if they would have a similar experience. Middle schools are next in line.
“We know if we are to get better outcomes for students,” Edwards concludes, “we must stay focused on the fact that everything starts and ends with the interaction among the student, the teacher, and the content.”
“Shadow Days Open Eyes and Minds of District Leaders” by Brian Edwards in School Administrator, June 2013 (Vol. 70, #6, p. 14), www.nassp.org; Edwards can be reached at Brian_Edwards@mcpsmd.org; a district video on the shadowing program, including a roundtable discussion, is available at http://bit.ly/Y8uPiU.
From the Marshall Memo #490